Stardom reads

by | Aug 12, 2022


Failure to sustain growth, and the process of relative (or

absolute) decline, is of more than academic interest. At the end

of 2001, the Argentine authorities made the long-anticipated

announcement that the country was unable to meet obligations to

private foreign and domestic creditors, triggering the largest debt

default in world history. This was not the first occasion that

Argentina had defaulted. In 1889/90 the Baring Crisis, caused by

default in Buenos Aires, provoked a panic in the City of London

that almost broke the Bank of England. In the 1980s, Argentine

indebtedness (in relative terms Argentina was the largest Latin

American debtor) brought the international banking system to the

brink of disaster. The distinctness of the 2001/2 default, apart from

the sheer scale of the crisis, is that the international fallout has been

limited. Is this because Argentina has become a serial defaulter?

For much of the period addressed by this book, Argentines have

been aware of the international economic ‘ranking’ of their

country. Drawing positive comparisons between the republic and

the USA, in the second half of the nineteenth century, several

commentators forecast a bright future. Political leaders predicted a

continental leadership role for the country predicated on political

and social modernisation. Immigrants from Italy and Spain, who

arrived in large numbers in the 1880s and the 1900s, testified to

the fact that material conditions were then massively better in the

republic than in many parts of Europe. By the 1920s per capita

incomes were high by European and Latin American standards,

and improving relative to other areas of recent settlement like


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